Cloud migration outlook: Still bright

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Media coverage on a new report from Deloitte seemed to indicate stormy skies for cloud computing in government. Only one in 10 federal leaders say their agencies’ cloud migrations have been successful. Just one-third say their agencies’ support for cloud has increased since the cloud first mandate was announced way back in 2010. And nearly one in three say that cloud has had no noticeable impact at their agency.

So, is it getting stormy for the cloud? Not so fast.

A deeper dive into the survey results reveals that many federal leaders are simply in the dark. Nearly half (49 percent) don’t know what the main drivers for cloud adoption are at their agency. Forty percent are unsure of the impact of cloud on their organization. And a full 50 percent are unable to gauge the success of their agency’s cloud migrations. Indeed, if “don’t know” was an answer option, it was the most common one chosen across the survey questions.

One way to read these results is that ignorance is bliss – in the wake of cloud first, agencies have migrated numerous workloads to the cloud, and there has been no noticeable disruption for users.

But the Deloitte study does seem to point to a change management challenge within federal agencies. Six years after cloud first came on the scene, agencies have already picked off the low-hanging cloud migration fruit, such as email and collaboration apps. Today’s migrations often are more complex and, as such, can be more challenging.

But another way to read them is that there’s a significant opportunity to educate agency employees on cloud’s benefits, track performance metrics following migrations, and share results on an ongoing basis. This kind of feedback loop can go a long way toward garnering additional support for more complex cloud migrations, as well as to encouraging open dialogue and information sharing that can make those migrations easier and more successful.

Of course, there are real challenges – beyond insufficient communication – that stand in the way of cloud progress. In addition to the 50 percent of survey respondents that did not know if their migrations were successful, another 41 percent classified their migration efforts as mixed, problematic, or non-existent. Those respondents note security concerns, a lack of skills/expertise, and budgeting constraints as the top deterrents.

But those don’t have to be insurmountable obstacles. In fact, the main cloud concerns cited by respondents are the very reasons that agencies need to move forward – so they can be more agile, reduce burden on IT, decrease costs, and more effectively deliver on their missions.

Cloud is not the perfect fit for every workload, but it is the best option for many, even most. Security, of course, must be a prime consideration, and the right stakeholders must have a seat at the table from the very beginning to discuss governance, risk management, and control as cloud options are evaluated, selected, and implemented.

Many agencies cite a lack of skills and expertise needed to move to the cloud, but there is no shortage of expert support and experience both among federal government cloud trail blazers and within the private sector. The changes that come along with cloud migrations are not always easy, but they are surmountable with the right preparation, education, and training.

Moving to the cloud is simply the single best investment agencies can make to ensure they are future-ready, enabling them to scale up or down to meet their fluctuating requirements and improve performance. And many agencies agree.

Innovation is not always easy or without challenges, but it is worth the effort. Cloud computing has the ability to transform every aspect of government, and we have a significant opportunity to learn from completed implementations and share best practices as we chart the path forward. Indeed, cloud’s future remains very bright.

Yogesh Khanna is Chief Technology Officer for CSRA, Inc., a leading provider of cloud and other IT services to the federal government.

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Cloud, CSRA, Deloitte
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